March 07, 2023
We completely forgive you for not paying much attention to college hoops this year.
The Phillies, Sixers and Eagles are the best they've been in ages and there hasn't been much time left to follow along with a new regime at Villanova basketball or the up-and-down Temple season.
But now, less than a week away from Selection Sunday, it's worth pondering whether there will be any local flavor whatsoever when March Madness begins in earnest in two weeks.
The short answer is: Probably not.
The City Six teams have been pretty darn mediocre this season aside from a few far too fleeting highlights. And, adding insult to injury, it appears that Penn State could be the only somewhat local team to be in the big dance later this month.
Technically speaking, however, with conference tournaments this week, a Cinderella run to an NCAA Tournament berth is not out of the question. It's just extremely unlikely.
Here's a quick check-in at each school as local hoops teams prepare to shock the world (which they probably won't) when conference tournaments kick-off.
Villanova was in the middle of the pack this season in the Big East and earned a 6-seed. They'll be the nightcap Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, hoping they can lean on NCAA tournament veterans Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels. New head coach Kyle Neptune took a team that was ranked 16th prior to his first season and saw them slide from title contention. If they prevail Wednesday, they'll face Creighton in the quarterfinals late on Thursday.
The Owls have had a roller coaster of a season and were able to earn the AAC's final conference tournament bye — which is a nice reward for a team boasting a pair of wins over ranked teams (No. 16 Villanova and No. 1 Houston). However, Aaron McKie's squad was not able to gain momentum in 2022-23, following up a pair of four-game win streaks with losing streaks of three and four games respectively. A win in their first game would pit them against the Cougars for a third time.
The 3-seeded Quakers have — on paper — the most direct shot at making it into the March Madness bracket this weekend. They only need to win two games: first against 2-seeded Princeton and then against the winner of Yale and Cornell.
A down season for St. Joe's puts them as the 10 seed, facing 15-seeded Loyola Chicago Tuesday — the worst team in the conference. If they are able to win a game they're favored in, they will have a much tougher uphill battle against 20-win Duquesne on Wednesday evening (a game televised on USA) in the next round.
The Explorers have a winnable game against the 20-loss Rhodies Tuesday, and a second win against 16-15 George Washington is a possibility as La Salle looks to overachieve in a conference having a down year. However, they'd need a third straight win against No. 2 Dayton to make a run at a conference tournament title.
Two more basketball teams had a shot at a bid into the NCAA Tournament, but Drexel (17-15, 10-8) and Delaware (17-16, 8-10) saw second-round wins lead to losses to UNC Wilmington and Towson respectively. Their seasons are over.
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